How important is it to look cute and sexy when you go to the gym?

You have your gym routine, and it feels good. You have worked hard to be consistent, and you get satisfaction out of staying focused toward your goals. But the gym is a weird place—simultaneously social but awkward, a place of strange blips of conversation between internal (and inevitable) comparisons of who is in better shape than the rest.

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Confidence is a big thing when it comes to regular trips to the gym. By having your workout routine you bolster confidence outside of the gym, but while you’re there, sometimes you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. And sometimes you feel weird when you see someone else doing an exercise superhero-style. Is the way you dress important? How important is it to look cute and sexy every time you go to the gym?

If this is really something you are thinking about, first ask yourself what potentially makes it important. You can get to the “yes” or “no” a little later, but fist figure out:

• Could it be important because of pressure from people you know (girlfriends, your man, etc.)?
• Could it be important because you want to feel more confident?
• Could it be important because of pressure from your gym’s overall culture?
• Could it be important because of that weird competitiveness between the girls in your group class?
• Could it be important because you really, really need the affirmation?

If you pick out an answer and think immediately, “Well that’s not cool,” you may have just answered the larger question. If you feel the need to look cute or sexy because of external pressure, you are off to a bad start, and the answer is probably that you shouldn’t do it. But if you want to fit in at your gym or want to feel good about yourself while you’re there, you still have some stuff to think through to get this question answered.

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When it comes to confidence, there might be a happy middle ground with dressing up for the gym. It is understandable to want to feel good about your appearance, especially if you’ve devoted yourself to a workout routine to keep up that appearance. Maybe there’s a middle ground—maybe you can dress to feel a little cute, but skip the sexy?

If you decide to go “cute” and skip the “sexy,” or think you still want to shoot for the moon and do it all, here are some tips to do it right:

DO treat yourself to an occasional new getup to refresh your look.

DON’T wear makeup, even sweat-resistant.

DO go bold with the sportsbra-only look if you like it.

DON’T wear clothes that inhibit your workout.

DO play with different hairstyles, as long as they keep your hair out of your face.

DON’T freak out if those hairstyles fall out over your workout.

DO take joy in messing your look and outfit up over the course of an awesome workout.

A word to the wise: if you do decide to rock cute or sexy at the gym, be aware of unwanted attention. You might get looks or something more direct thrown at you, which can complicate getting your workout done and as well as other relationships you have at the gym. Be prepared to say “thank you, but no thank you,” and try to keep an open dialogue with yourself so you can recognize when the attention outweighs the fun of coming decked out to the gym.

If you are coming to the gym looking good, and you snap an average of more than one selfie a week, we call your bluff. If you are dressing up and snapping multiple selfies per week (or per workout), you are entertaining yourself with only the excuse to dress up, just like when you go out with your girls. You don’t really want to work out—you just want to fitness model and play with angles to see how fit you can look in pictures. Get your real fit on and hit the treadmill! Only use your phone for music.

Remember that over the length of a workout, your conventional “cuteness” rating will decrease. Feeling self-conscious about the look on your face during a tough exercise, or on the state of your hair over the course of time at the gym, will only be counter-productive. Take joy in making an entrance when you arrive looking and feeling good. But then, get to work and don’t look back.

We have probably drilled it in enough: confidence at the gym is a big deal and shouldn’t be ignored, but the one thing you have to do there is work out and work out properly. If you’re going to the gym with the idea to stick with the program and look cute doing it, don’t lose sight of why you’re there.